Volume 21, Number 1 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | May 16 - 22, 2008

Letters to the Editor

Constitution isn’t kitsch

To The Editor:
I am a resident and artist vendor in Soho, resident 28 years and artist vendor two years, and I am thoroughly appalled and confused by Judy Seigel’s letter apparently stating selling “bad” art isn’t protected by the First Amendment (Letters, May 9 – 15, “Tchotchkes aren’t speech”).

I’m no constitutional law scholar but it seems that if selling printed material (books, screenplays etc.) on the street is legal, whether Ms. Siegel considers it “good” or “bad,” then selling art is equally protected.

As to what she considers “banalities,” “kitsch,” or “clutter,” art is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

Remember, most of the Impressionists couldn’t “get themselves arrested” so to speak and the Nazis burned art produced by Jewish and other artists, labeling it “degenerate art.”
 Bonnie Lynn

To The Editor:
In “Tchotchkes aren’t speech” (Letters, May 9 – 15), Judy Seigel expresses skepticism that the First Amendment protects the sale of artistic expression and wonders if the U.S. Supreme Court has ever ruled on this question. It has repeatedly.

From Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 761 (1976) “Speech is protected even though it is a form that is sold for profit….”

In Bery/Lederman et al v. City of New York, 97 F.3d 689 (Second Circuit 1996), the ruling establishing street artists rights, it states: “Visual art …is entitled to the same First Amendment protection as written material.”

In United States v. National Treasury Employees Union, U.S. 115 S. Ct. 1003 (1995), the United States Supreme Court found that a ban on honoraria for government employees “imposes the kind of burden that abridges speech under the First Amendment,” in part because “the denial of compensation for lower paid, non policymaking employees will inevitably diminish their expressive output” and will “impose a significant burden on the public’s right to read and hear what the employees would otherwise have written and said.”

As in the present case, without the money, the plaintiffs would not have engaged in the protected expressive activity. Furthermore, the street marketing is in fact a part of the message of appellant’s art. As they note in their submissions to the court, they believe that art should be available to the public. Anyone — not just the wealthy — should be able to view it and buy it. Artists are part of the “real” world; they struggle to make a living and interact with their environments. The sale of art in public places conveys these
messages.

As to whether some of the art sold on the street is “tchotchkes” or not, this is a purely subjective opinion that can vary depending on one’s views. That art can be sold under free expression is, however, a settled matter.
Robert Lederman
President of A.R.T.I.S.T. and a plaintiff in Bery/Lederman v. City of New York

To The Editor:
I agree with the point implicit in Judy Seigel’s letter that speech or art should not be bought and sold, because what is bought and sold can be corrupted and perverted by the desire for money, as it often is. But under the capitalist system, that’s the way things are done in case she hasn’t noticed.

I hope Robert Lederman has made everybody understand that the sale of art, as well as books and newspapers, is fully and rightly protected by the First Amendment, and that one man’s kitsch is another man’s beloved velvet Elvis.

The First Amendment is not a juried art show; it is non-exclusive and truly democratic, inviting one and all to freedom of expression.
Thelma Blitz

Holy Land response

To The Editor: 
I never did view the World Trade Center site as sacred ground (Talking Point, May 9 – 15, “Welcome omission of ‘sacred ground’ talk”).  I can understand that about 3,000 died there, but that doesn’t mean that people should demand that they own it, because they don’t.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey still owns the site no matter what.  As a native of Israel, there are more places that are a “ground zero” when it comes to terrorism, yet those places aren’t preserved, because they feel it would be showing fear just like the official plan for the W.T.C. site.  Rebuilding the Twin Towers would be just like how in Israel, numerous restaurants in Israel are brought back after being attacked by terrorists.
Tal Barzilai
Pleasantville, N.Y.

The poop on the L.E.S.

To The Editor:
I’m in third grade and I’m 8 years old. I go to school at P.S. 134 on the Lower East Side.

I really like the Lower East Side. I’m writing to you because I have a problem: People should clean up after their dogs.

This is a problem for many reasons. It is a problem because it stinks. If there’s poop on the ground, people will say the Lower East Side doesn’t know how to act. If people are dribbling a basketball on the sidewalk and there’s poop on the pavement, the ball will get dirty. It is important to me because the whole world could be dirty if people did not clean up after their dogs.

I have lived on the Lower East Side for a long time. I want this neighborhood to be a good place to live. If it stinks because of all the poop, people are going to move away. It is unhealthy. You could get sick if people don’t clean up their dogs’ poop.

You need to make people aware by writing articles about it. Then the people will start cleaning up after their dogs.
Steven Koh

 





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